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Transient activty in "Greenbelt" area costing Eureka taxpayers

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It’s been a busy week for service calls in the Greenbelt area of Eureka.

 

"The majority of calls are for vegetation or debris fires," Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Ken Woods said.

 

In the last week, crews have responded to 15 transient fires and two medical calls in the stretch of vegetation that borders the Humboldt Bay. And each time there’s a call— there’s also a cost.

 

“Normally the charge of our apparatus is about $200 an hour for the cost of the engine, the fuel and the personnel on the apparatus," Woods said.

 

Last week’s calls to the Greenbelt area resulted in roughly 30 “apparatus hours.” Multiply that number by how much it costs to run an hour and taxpayers are forking over $6,000 a week. Fire officials said this is their busiest season, but if that weekly cost was maintained throughout the 52 weeks in a year, it would cost taxpayers $300,0000 annually.

 

“They’re the ones who fund the fire service — whether it’s through their property tax or sales tax,” Woods said. “We're all paying that burden to continually go out there and deal with those fires."

 

But it’s not just fires. On Saturday a woman was allegedly assaulted.

 

“Another transient got in an argument about who had the right to be there and she got struck by a machete,” Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham said.

 

Harpham said there are ongoing efforts to address the issue.

 

"We were in there all last week again because of complaints,” Harpham said. “They move right back."

 

Mayor Frank Jager adds both the county and city have spent millions trying to offer alternatives to those living back there.

 

"There are tons of resources for the people to available themselves to,” Jager said. “So there's no reason for them to be there other than that's where they want to be."

 

So instead, the city is looking at developing the area with a trail.

 

"Once the trail goes through we want to develop it to be a family picnic area if possible,” Jager said. “But it's going to be difficult until we solve the problems we got down there now."